Imagine a lush, verdant island paradise where the inhabitants are friendly, the scenery is breathtaking, and you won’t find another tourist for miles. No smoke monsters. No need to befriend a volleyball. You may be thinking of Tristan da Cunha.
The South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha may sound like an idyllic getaway, but traveling to the British territory is a bit of a trick – its nearest neighbor, the island of St. Helena, lies a staggering 1,501 miles away, making Tristan the world’s most remote inhabited island.
“To get here, you would have to get a flight to Cape Town and reserve a berth on either the fishing ship or the research vessel that comes once a year,” says Ian Lavarello, chief islander. “The trip takes between six or seven days and that’s also weather-dependent. In the winter months it could take nine, ten days to get to the island from Cape Town.”
The territory has a fascinating history that dates back to the 16th century.
The four islands that make up the tiny nation – Tristan, Inaccessible, Gough and Nightingale – were discovered and named by Portuguese admiral Admiral Tristao da Cunha in 1506. No one attempted to colonize the rocky outcrop until more than 300 years later, when Napoleon was exiled to nearby St. Helena. Realizing the island’s strategic position, the British military quickly took possession of Tristan in 1816. A young Scottish Corporal and his family were stationed on the island and several other men of various nationalities landed there by happenstance.
As the story goes, when Tristan found itself with five lonely bachelors by 1827, the islanders commissioned a regular visitor of Tristan to bring back five suitable women from St. Helena. By 1832, the population had grown to 34, with six happy couples and 22 children.